Tuesday, March 18, 2008

St. Patrick's Weekend in Second Life

Si Lytton, my alter ego in Second LifeYes, St Patrick's Weekend was celebrated in Second Life, not least in the various themed parties and meet ups in the clubs and bars there. Discover Ireland also arranged for a number of parades along the streets of "Dublin" as part of an effort to publicise the Real Life (RL) city. The theory behind this is that people might like SL Dublin and come searching for some RL kicks.

I find SL Dublin to be strange in the extreme. Walking (or flying) along College Green, one sees traffic-free streets and some familiar sights like Trinity College and the Bank of Ireland. Enter a doorway, however, and one finds oneself inside a typical SL boutique selling avatar clothing or jewellry. It's like being in a dream where the familiar is ever so distorted. In O'Connell Street, the widest thoroughfare in Europe, one finds the GPO a stone's throw from the river (I flew into the Liffey by accident and walked along the bottom -- a real first -- I've not done that in RL... yet....) and then the Northside stops abruptly before Henry Street. No Clearys, either, but there is a Millenium Spire. There are quite a few avatars hanging out in SL Dublin's bars and clubs and it is definitely worth a longer exploration some time.
On Sunday I joined the onlookers for the first parade in SL Dublin. It was fun for a number of unexpected reasons, primarily the technical problems of too many visitors filling up a Sim in one go and the comments from those whose avatars were experiencing difficulties. People were materialising without any hair, or couldn't see anything, or couldn't figure out if they were sitting in an unoccupied seat. Luckily, although there were some lags in the action, I didn't experience too many glitches. The arrival of SL floats whose construction was sponsored by various RL and SL interests was announced by a commere whose American origins meant some interesting pronunciations of the pre-prepared script: "Dally-mount Park" and "Chapel-eye-zod" for instance. "The Christchurch" was another small blooper.

I have to say I didn't stay to see the whole parade, but of those I saw the floats mostly appeared uniformly cubic in shape with various uninspiring (some downright mysterious) attachments forming their bodies. They zig-zagged in a kind of controlled chaos down the streets (and sometimes on the pavements) to the applause of the crowd. After a while, I let my camera wander over the spectators, who seemed much more interesting, if only because they come in far more varities of sizes, shapes and styles.
Of course, I eventually ended up in Toby's Juke Joint Blues club in Garden City, which is my favourite hang-out in SL so far. The party must have been good because my avatar was missing a boot next day. Bit like RL, I suppose.

But I think the parade showed great promise and I hope it continues to grow. Perhaps with a longer lead-in time next year the floats might show more of that Second Life magic. Ironically, I've seen creatures and costumes in the real Dublin parade that rival any fantasy creations roaming in the wider Second Life world. I hope someone finds a way to integrate that kind of creation into the 2009 SL parade. Good work, people! Looking forward to next year already.

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